Last week I carried a sign. It was a political sign. Not one to end a war or allow or disallow abortions or to legalize California's largest cash crop. The sign I carried had a name on it, a person running for town office in an election where the level of debate generated its own weather system.
The competition was ensconced across the street. I didn't know them but you could just tell by the way they brazenly waved their signs and faux-smiled at motorized potential voters that they were scallywags, or rednecks, or carpet baggers or one of the other names we give those who have different beliefs than ours.
As you proudly hold your sign high with one hand while waving at passing vehicles with the other, you smile (genuinely) at the occupants. This to let them know you are a nice person and if a nice person is willing to stand on a street corner at 7 a.m. to tout someone he believes in, well maybe they should too. That's the theory anyway.
An alternate theory is it's just another in the series of "mine's bigger than yours" games we play from age 2 upward. Maybe a combination of both.
There are several reactions you get from people. Many ignore you but they might not be voters in this town, or maybe they haven't had their coffee yet and are wearing their cranky pants.
Others wave back and smile. That's validating. Sometimes the smilers give an encouraging thumbs-up. Even more validating. Occasionally someone honks in solidarity and you think, She's one of us and it doesn't get any better than this.
Of course, some may wave or smile at the competition on the next corner. You don't see that so you don't care. But when they honk, oh, that stings. You start keeping a honk tally in your head. Someone double-beeps you, you count it twice.
The worst are the people who smile, wave and/or honk at you and then do the same for the opposition! What's with these people? I don't have time to look it up but I'll bet this condition is described in some college-level psychology textbook. I bet it even has a fancy name like Ambivalent Honkers Syndrome.
After a half-hour, boredom creeps in. You must fight, otherwise you'll develop a listless look that won't do your candidate any good at the polls. I started collecting statistics. Women were more likely to smile back than men. Maybe that's because women are more friendly than men, are better networkers or think I'm cute. Whatever the answer, the boredom is gone.
I noticed that my corner partner was waving and smiling at every car. Originally I thought this was an admirable trait and I did the same. When my arms started to tire I reconsidered my position and we (my arms and I) had this conversation.
You're waving at everyone.
What if some of the people you're waving at aren't the type of voters we want?
We want very voter we can get.
I don't think so. How would you like it if someone said, "Sure you won, but look whovoted for you."
After that we became more selective. The only method we had for discriminating among voters was the difference in their cars or, as I call it, their "autographics." This selection process worked quite well. I'd tell you our criteria but I'd be giving away campaign secrets.
Lessons for a time when you too might carry a sign:
* Dress in layers so you can peel some off as the weather warms up.
*Don't twirl your sign. Boredom will drive you to consider this but, personally, I think sign twirling is for amateurs.
* Be prepared for withdrawal symptoms and separation anxiety. Once you have been on a corner for two hours, you ownthat corner. It has your mark on it. It's tough to abandon it and let the corner return to its anonymous state. Even worse, a sign twirler might replace you.
With some things in life you just have to suck it up and do it. Politics isn't everything — especially when you haven't had breakfast yet.